Your Roadmap to Boundless Energy- Pt 2
…Advanced Root Causes of Your Fatigue
In the previous post on this topic, we discussed how inadequate sleep, relaxation, nutrition, and movement contribute to fatigue. Some of you have tried your best in these areas, and yet still feel a lack of energy. You can get stuck in your progress because you don’t have the energy to put towards meal prepping and exercising, so you can’t really do the things that will help you get healthier. Or maybe you are living a very healthy life, and yet still feel this lingering cloud keeping you down. How can you get unstuck?
Whenever I see a patient with fatigue that doesn’t improve as expected, there are *4 main root causes* I consider. During the evaluation, I ask about your history and look for patterns in your symptoms that might give me a clue as to what is causing dysfunction. If we have been doing our best with improving lifestyle and yet low energy persists, it is time to pursue advanced strategies.
The gut uses about 20% of the body’s energy expenditure!(1) Furthermore, 75% of your immune system is housed in your intestines.(2) So of course this needs to be an area we evaluate when looking for what is draining your energy.
Many things can go wrong in the gut that lead to fatigue. If you have poor digestion because of low stomach acid (can be caused by using acid-blocking medications), enzymes, bile, or other causes, then you are not absorbing as many nutrients from your food. This will also cause an imbalance of microbes living in your intestines, which makes you more inflamed. Inflammation makes us feel tired, achy, and foggy.
An imbalance in the microbes, which is referred to as dysbiosis, has other causes. Antibiotics are the most well-known. Some studies show that a few rounds of antibiotics in one year can set off inflammation that lasts for years, increasing the risk of many chronic health conditions. Furthermore, a diet high in sugar or low in fiber and plant-based foods can lead to dysbiosis.
More sinister than dysbiosis is outright infection. I run stool testing on many of my patients, and it is remarkable how many come back with E. coli infection, parasites, or viruses. People are surprised to hear that you can have an infection without diarrhea, but it’s true! Sometimes you just don’t know what’s draining you and causing damage until you test. It’s always exciting to see what strange symptoms go away when we treat the gut.
While we all know that toxins can hurt the body, did you know that the main way is through fatigue? Toxins damage the energy powerhouses of our cells called mitochondria. If your energy factory is damaged, you just can’t produce enough no matter how healthy your lifestyle is! Some examples of sources of toxins:
- Plastics: water bottles, food storage containers, cutlery, liners of tin cans, disposable coffee cups
- Beauty chemicals: parabens, sulfates, fragrance/parfum, and others in shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, hair styling products, makeup, lotion
- Food and medication toxins: artificial colors, artificial preservatives, pesticides, genetically modified proteins, sulfates, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, excessive added sugar, MSG, mold, allergens
- Heavy metals: fish and seafood, lipstick, supplemental powders from low-quality companies, pots and pans, aluminum foil, dental amalgam fillings, cigarette smoke
- Home and lawn chemicals: cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, VOCs (off-gassing chemicals) from paint and new items such as shower curtains and furniture, flame retardants on upholstered and cloth items, foam in pillows and mattresses, airborne toxins such as burning firewood or candles
I use a Toxin Exposure Questionnaire to gauge how toxic a patient might be, and when their body is ready, lead them through detoxification using supplements, sweating, and hydration.
This is a controversial topic that seems to be a growing problem. Our buildings are aging, making them more prone to leaks. In addition, newer construction designed to be energy efficient makes it more difficult for the building to “breathe”, and newer materials may be more conducive to mold growth. This is especially a problem in schools, government buildings, and large office buildings, but can happen anywhere.
No one likes to think about mold because it’s not a simple fix. But what I and other functional medicine practitioners have seen is that if you are truly sensitive to mold and you are being exposed, you will never get better unless your environment becomes mold-free and you detoxify from it.
As a toxin, mold targets the mitochondria and reduces energy production. But it also targets neurological and respiratory tissues. Brain fog, poor concentration, trouble sleeping, vision challenges, depression, pneumonia, asthma, and sinus infections are common in mold-challenged individuals.
Sources of mold can be leaks or previous flooding in your home, workplace, other homes you spend time in, or school. It can also be a previous exposure that has allowed fungus to be growing in your nasal passageway or sinuses. In this case, you might have left the original source but now you are the main source! Mold can also be found in our food, such as peanuts, pistachios, corn, coffee, pre-made tea, grains, dried fruit, jelly, fresh berries, wine, and canned tomato products. Finally, the mold might be long gone, but their toxins might be stuck in your tissues. Mycotoxins can linger for years in the body, and can be measured in the urine.
This last root cause is even more controversial than mold. Testing for infections like Epstein Barr/mono and other viruses, Lyme and other tick-borne bacteria, Candida, and systemic parasites has not been standardized. This makes it hard to diagnose and track. These infections not only cause cellular damage, but also drain your body of its resources by chronically activating your immune system.
Your body does not want you running around if it feels like it is fighting for survival!
The main approach I take with infections is supporting the immune system and providing broad-spectrum herbal anti-microbials. We don’t have to know every possible inflammatory microbe in order for you to improve. There is no test that could tell us every infection that could be bothering your system. Your body’s immune system is very smart and can take care of infections for you if we provide it all it needs to function optimally and send in back-up with anti-microbials.
If you are doing what you can to live a healthy life but feel that your lack of energy is holding you back, investigating these other root causes can lead you to the answer. I always start with the gut first, ensuring that digestion and microbial balance are optimized. Then based on your history and symptoms, addressing toxicity, mold, or chronic infections can produce the healing required for your body to make all the energy you need to live your best life!
Have you gone through a time in your life of greater fatigue due to one of these root causes? Comment below!